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Modern Religious Art - The Vatican Museums

By OGP Reporters / Members Contribute File Photos

Oh Good Party

It was a place envisioned as a sacred shrine, a modern temple of the imagination, dedicated to a religion of beauty, of transcendence and transformation and, perhaps most surprising of all, of visceral, physical moments of deep aesthetic pleasure. We hope to have more to say about both art and museums as distinctively modern and sacred institutions in the future.

It is only appropriate that the Vatican Museums hold one of the world’s greatest art collections and the largest museums in the world. Home to masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian, the Vatican has always been a place sacred to the arts.


The poetic and creative impulses of the hill beside the Tiber are revealed in its name: The ancient Romans called this modest eminence the Mons Vaticanus, a reference to the poets and seers, or vates, who dwelled there. Pope Julius II founded the museums in the early 16th century.


For many centuries, popes, cardinals, and the religious orders were responsible for the realization of dozens of masterpieces. So many of the treasures in the collections of the Vatican Museums depict a vibrant and vivid view into a world of beauty and faith. Walking through the Vatican, we get an incomparable lesson in the history of art and a profound impression of the skill and passion of the artists, and of their wonderful “force of mind”.


They display works from the immense collection built up by the Popes throughout the centuries including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world. The Museums include several monumental works of art, such as the Sistine Chapel, the Chapel of Beato Angelico, the Raphael Rooms and Loggia and the Borgia Apartment. The museums contain roughly 70,000 works, of which 20,000 are on display.


One of the most famous paintings in the Raphael Rooms is the School of Athens representing philosophy and science, disciplines in which Raphael includes painting and architecture. This painting, whose sophisticated perspective opens up a deep vista in the small room, represents an idealized gathering of scholars and artists from the classical world, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance, and constitutes one of Raphael’s greatest achievements.


Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, The Last Judgment. The work depicts the resurrection of the dead and their separation into the saved and the damned. While the saved souls ascend to heaven on Christ’s right-hand side, the side of the “just,” the damned descend to hell on his left.


The Stefaneschi Polyptych is one of the oldest works in the Pinacoteca. It is closely tied to the history of the Vatican. The Florentine painter Giotto di Bondone completed this richly gilded double-sided work between 1320 and 1330 for the high altar of Old St. Peter’s. It is regarded as one of the first realistic portraits in the history of painting.


It occupies 55 rooms: the Apartment of Alexander VI (in the first floor of the Apostolic Palace), the two floors of the Salette Borgia, a series of rooms below the Sistine Chapel, and a series of rooms on the ground floor.The collection consists of almost 800 works by 250 international artists including: Alice Lok Cahana, Auguste Rodin, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Émile Bernard, Maurice Denis, Odilon Redon, Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, Ernst Barlach, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, Maurice Utrillo, Giorgio de Chirico, Giorgio Morandi, Georges Rouault, Oskar Kokoschka, Bernard Buffet, Renato Guttuso, Giacomo Balla, Alfred Manessier, Francis Bacon, Giacomo Manzù, Eduardo Chillida, Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso.


The majority of these works of art were donated by artists and collectors to the Holy See.


It was a place envisioned as a sacred shrine, a modern temple of the imagination, dedicated to a religion of beauty, of transcendence and transformation and, perhaps most surprising of all, of visceral, physical moments of deep aesthetic pleasure.


We hope to have more to say about both art and museums as distinctively modern and sacred institutions in the future.


If you're into art, religion and history then this is the place to go.


Tips

1. They are open free of charge on the last Sunday of every month (from 8 : 30 am to 2 : 00 pm).

2. There are a lot of people in line during the peak tourist season. You can book tickets online, and only need + EUR 4 for the booking fee, which is worth it.

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